WASHINGTON (Dispatches) -- Several Iranian drones were apparently used in a strike on an oil tanker operated by an Israeli-owned company, killing two on board, unnamed Zionist officials told the New York Times on Saturday.
The officials told the newspaper that the strike earlier this week was apparently carried out by a number of Iranian drones that slammed into the ship’s living quarters underneath the vessel’s command center as it sailed off the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea.
An unnamed U.S. official confirmed to the newspaper that multiple drones were involved in the attack but it was as yet unknown how many had hit the vessel, the paper said.
A Zionist intelligence official also told the paper that the timing of Thursday’s attack could mean that Iran was expanding its maritime operations by apparently responding at sea to a land attack which Tehran blamed on the occupying regime of Israel.
Previously Iran carried out sea attacks only in response to maritime operations it attributed to Israel, it said.
Iranian news network Al-Alam, citing “well-informed sources,” said the attack was in response to an Israeli strike in Syria that martyred “two resistance men” last week.
The strike Thursday night on oil tanker Mercer Street marks the first-known fatal attack after years of assaults on commercial shipping in the region.
Two ship crewmen, a British and Romanian national, died in the attack — an unnamed senior Israeli official cited by Channels 12 and 13 news said Friday that the Romanian fatality was apparently the captain, while the British man was a security guard.
The American military said Saturday that after inspecting the vessel, U.S. Navy explosive experts believe a “drone strike” targeted the oil tanker.
The American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and the guided missile destroyer USS Mitscher were escorting the Mercer Street as it headed to a safe port, the U.S. Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet said in a statement early Saturday.
The 5th Fleet statement did not explain how it determined a drone caused the damage, although it described its explosive experts finding “clear visual evidence that an attack had occurred” aboard the Mercer Street.
The occupying regime’s military leadership convened Friday night to discuss what it believes to be an Iranian attack on the ship.
In a statement Friday night, Zionist foreign minister Yair Lapid said he was in continuous contact with his British counterpart Dominic Raab and had “noted to him the need to respond severely to the attack.”
Zodiac Maritime is a London-based company belonging to Zionist tycoon Eyal Ofer. Earlier this month, a UAE-bound vessel previously owned by Ofer’s company was struck in the northern Indian Ocean.
The company said that while it operates the Liberia-flagged “Mercer Street” oil tanker, the owner of the ship is Japanese.
‘No More Impunity for Zionist Regime’
A Lebanese analyst said the resistance front will not allow the Tel Aviv regime to commit crimes with impunity.
“The Axis of Resistance won’t permit Israelis to commit any crimes without retaliation, whether from Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Iran or elsewhere. They (Israeli officials) have to understand that resistance forces can reach them anywhere,” Beirut-based Mohsen Saleh told Press TV on Saturday.
He said the Zionist regime is engaged in a campaign doomed to failure against the resistance bloc, describing Israeli attacks on Syrian territory and the Iraqi-Syrian border as well as assassination attempts against Iranians as desperate attempts.
Saleh went on to say that the balance of power is tipped in favor of the resistance front.
“They have to re-calculate their existence or hostilities against resistance groups and factions, whether in Lebanon, Syria or Iraq. All these groups are really willing to counterattack or retaliate against Israel’s acts of aggression,” he said.
Israeli authorities, Saleh said, have realized that their attacks, normalization agreements with some Arab countries, besides support from the United States and certain European countries, would not be beneficial as resistance fighters can target them anywhere.
“The resistance front can now outdo Israel both at political and military levels.”
Saleh said retaliatory rocket and missile attacks by Gaza-based Palestinian resistance attacks against Israeli-occupied territories during last May’s Operation Al-Quds Sword, and attacks on Israeli vessels are clear examples of such a fact.
The analyst also hit out at Lapid’s allegations blaming Iran for the attack on the tanker off Oman.
“Israelis can’t deny their crimes
against Iranian scientists and nuclear facilities, besides attacks on resistance groups stationed on the Iraqi-Syrian border. They have already declared a campaign against the Axis of Resistance, Iran, Hezbollah, Iraqis, Syrians, Yemenis and Palestinians,” he said.
Saleh said the Israeli Zionist has understood that its hostile actions will not go unanswered anymore as opposed to the past, when it could strike Arab lands and Arabs would rush to dance to the regime’s tune.
Zionists Caught Off Guard
The Jerusalem Post on Saturday published articles on Iran’s growing drone power in the wake of the sophisticated attack off the coast of Oman.
The Zionist paper said the incident “looks like a serious and complex attack that is not just a major escalation, but a new use of Iran drone technology.”
“The reported use of numerous drones against the Mercer Street could mark a new era in the Middle East and a major red line as drones are being used against ships. Using several drones to precisely target parts of the ship, such as the bridge or living quarters, may indicate advanced surveillance and intelligence,” it said.
“It is not clear if Iran’s drones can be piloted once they are launched by a ground control station. That means that an attack on a ship is complex because ships move and it’s unclear how Iran might program the drones to strike the ship precisely. Even at anchor a ship will shift around with the tide or wind. So how could the drone target specific areas, unless it was controlled up until the impact?” it added. “If Iran has reached a new level of precision drone strikes and is using them against shipping in deadly attacks, this is a major milestone. “
The report said Iran has been increasing its drone abilities in recent years and that it has a large number of militarized UAVs.
“This shows how Iranian drones and drone technology are now a major emerging threat from Lebanon all the way through Syria and Iraq to the Persian Gulf and then to the Gulf of Oman and Yemen, stretching thousands of miles and potentially putting ships and forces from the U.S. and many allies and partners in danger,” it said.
In an article published on July 16, the Haaretz newspaper said, “Tehran’s growing use of drones reflects an old Iranian ethos of combining technological progress with self-reliance.”